Court to rule on broadcast request in Aurora case, opposed by Khulubuse Zuma, Zondwa Mandela

The Springs Regional Court in Gauteng will decide on Wednesday whether the case against the former directors of Aurora Empowerment Systems directors, accused of environmental violations, should be broadcast.

In a brief appearance on July 15, news channel eNCA requested to film the proceedings. Lawyers for the accused objected. Magistrate Nkhensani Moila ruled they will have an opportunity to state their reasons for opposing the broadcast on Wednesday. The National Prosecuting Authority does not object to the case being filmed.

Three of the accused - Khulubuse Zuma, Zondwa Mandela and Thulani Ngubane – were in court at the last hearing with their legal teams.

They face five charges, including water pollution, failure to comply with a compliance notice, unlawful use of water, acting detrimentally to affect water supply, and failure to comply with conditions of water usage at the Grootvlei gold mine near Springs.

Zuma, the nephew of ex-president Jacob Zuma, was Aurora's former chair. Mandela, late president Nelson Mandela’s grandson, was the mining group's ex-managing director.

The fourth accused, former executive Raja Zainal Alam Shah, did not appear in court in July. The case had already been postponed in May to try and locate him. According to the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, he is based in Malaysia. 

Wetlands contamination

The Pamodzi gold mines, in Grootvlei near Springs and in Orkney in the North West, came under Aurora’s control in 2009 after they had been placed under provisional liquidation. 

In bid letters Aurora claimed to have funding and experience in mining, but the mines soon collapsed. The four accused were blamed by trade unions for selling off the mine's equipment and failing to pay 5 300 workers their salaries, leaving thousands of dependents destitute.  

The former Aurora heads are accused of failing to prevent acid mine drainage from contaminating the Blesbok Spruit, one of the largest wetlands on the Highveld and one of the tributaries of the Vaal River, a key water source for Gauteng. The court docket also details they ignored a compliance notice to treat the underground mine water and bring it to healthy levels.

 If they are found guilty by the court in violation of the Water Act, the directors could face five years imprisonment, a fine and might be ordered to pay for remedial treatment.

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